Working in Australia

So, you’re planning to travel to Australia?
Welcome to a beautiful country where the people are warm and friendly, the attitude is easy going and relaxed, and the scenery is exquisite – be prepared to travel and explore!!
Of course, you will have expenses, and working as a dental assistant in a part-time or casual position would be your first choice so here are some details which you may find helpful.
In Australia, the term dental assistant is used rather than dental nurse. The job description includes chairside & clinical assisting during dental procedures, cleaning and preparing the surgery (clinic), cleaning and processing re-usable instruments and equipment, organizing appointments, invoicing and processing payments and reception duties. You must have good communication and excellent verbal English skills to be employed in this field.
In Australia there are no requirements for dental assistants to have a qualification or be certified in order to work in this profession. Many are simply “trained on the job” and hold no qualifications. Dental Assistants are NOT required to REGISTER or be ACCREDITED by any overseeing body. The only exception which applies here is to dental assistants who have completed a Certificate IV in Dental Assisting (Radiography) and must hold a license to expose radiographs with the Australian Environment Protection Authority or the appropriate State or territory authority. Only certain Australian courses are accredited to allow students to apply for registration with the EPA. Overseas dental assistants cannot expose radiographs on a patient without undertaking an Australian accredited radiography course and holding registration with EPA. An overseas radiography qualification will not comply.
Dental Hygienists and Dental Therapists must be registered by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency before working in Australia as a hygienist or Oral Health Therapist. Application is made to the Australian Dental Council . More information can be found on the Dental Board of Australia website

Dental Assisting is not included on the skilled migration list.
Sponsorship is extremely difficult to obtain and we are aware of very few successful cases where UK and Phillipino dental assistants have been approved to work in this country under sponsorship arrangements. Of these few, most applications were made by related family members who were dental practitioners operating a surgery and offering secure employment and sponsorship to their relative. Do not assume you will be able to secure sponsorship to remain once you enter the country.

As Dental Assisting is not a registered profession, training courses are not mandatory, however, there is a large uptake of dental assistants who complete the national basic level course – Certificate III in Dental Assisting for their own professional development. You do not need a qualification or a certificate or registration with any organization in order to work as a chairside assistant in this country, although if you have a qualification, you may be paid a higher rate than an unqualified assistant On successful completion of this course, dental assistants are classified as “qualified” and are entitled to a level 4 or qualified assistant level of pay in the award rates which apply to dentistry in private practice.
Training organisations who offer the national Certificate III in Dental Assisting (HLT35015 or HLT35021) must be accredited by ASQA or the relevant State Vocational Training Accreditation Board. There are many private institutions who offer “Certificates in Dental Assisting” : but are not Registered Training Organisations and their courses are often quite expensive and not recognized as National Qualifications. If you choose to undertake a qualification, make sure you enroll with a registered training organization who offer a nationally recognized qualification.
Certificate IV in Dental Assisting is the next level up and offers the specialty units which include- radiography or oral hygiene promotion or dental practice management. You must have undertaken a Certificate III before you can enroll into Certificate IV units, so you would not be able to enroll in a radiography stream of Cert IV before you had completed all eight units of the Certificate III course.
Orthodontic dental assisting courses are available in Australia and are run privately through the supply companies – it is not a qualification course. The DAPA can direct you to a reputable Orthodontic Course depending on where you locate in Australia.

There is no reciprocal arrangement between Australia and any other country to recognize any dental assisting qualifications. Although there is no official recognition, your qualification and study will be accepted as an indication of your advanced knowledge and clinical experience, so it is advisable to bring a copy of your certificate and transcript with you if you intend to apply for work. Certified Canadian Dental Assistants are well regarded in Australia for their high standard of care.

Some visitors have asked about having their overseas qualification recognized or mapped against the Australian Qualification with the possibility of then attaining the Australian Certificate III in Dental Assisting. This can be done by applying for “RPL” (recognition of prior learning) with a registered training organization such as Tafe or DAPA. It is an expensive process and does not guarantee a successful outcome. If you are not planning to remain in Australia and apply for permanent residency, this process is not recommended. As certification is not mandatory for a dental assistant, there is no guarantee of employment if, and when, you do qualify for your certificate so this could be an unnecessary expense.
If you are planning to remain in Australia and apply for residency, then the DAPA (Dental Assistants Professional Association) would be happy to assess your prior qualification and knowledge – we have many UK and Canadian applicants who successfully complete this procedure. There will be a “gap” identified in your knowledge which relates to Australian Law and Infection Control Standards, and you will need to complete some assignment work to update that knowledge. You will also need to hold a current Australian First Aid Certificate before you can complete the Australian Certificate III in Dental Assisting.

You will find the duties in Australia are limited as it is not a registered profession. Dental Assistants are not allowed to perform any “restricted dental act”. A restricted dental act means:
• performing any irreversible procedure on the human teeth or jaw or associated structures
• correcting malposition’s of the human teeth or jaw or associated structures;
• fitting or intra-orally adjusting artificial teeth or corrective or restorative dental appliances for a person;
• performing any irreversible procedure on, or the giving of any treatment or advice to, a person that is preparatory to or for the purpose of fitting, inserting, adjusting, fixing, constructing, repairing or renewing artificial dentures or a restorative dental appliance.

So coronal polishing, application of fluoride, adjustment of restorations in the mouth are not allowed under Australian law. You may be required to pour models, create bleaching trays (but not issue them to patients), fabricate temporary crowns, assist with oral hygiene instruction under supervision and assist the operator in all operative procedures. This applies to all States and Territories EXCEPT Queensland, where extended duties for dental assistants applies. However, these extended duties can only be performed by a student who has undertaken an approved Qld course.
You will not be allowed to operate radiography equipment or expose radiographs unless you hold a current EPA license (Australia) – only available to students who complete accredited Australian radiography courses. Although many practices use digital technology, some still manually process dental films and you will be required to develop dental radiographic images or operate computer equipment to display images.
It is not a requirement for dental assistants to hold a dental radiography license and as an overseas visitor, you should not be expected to apply for this license.
In order to work in the Health Profession, you will be required to hold current immunization in Measles, Mumps, Diptheria, Varicella, Tetanus and Hepatitis B.

Most employers will advertise through newspapers, career websites or through the DAPA website. Search online through

When you arrive in Australia, we recommend you register with a temp agency for temporary or part time and relief positions. This is a popular pathway for overseas trained DA’s to “test the water” for work in Australia. Often these positions can lead to more permanent positions.
There are two main employment options for dental assistants –
• private dental practices or
• Public Health Dental Clinics (hospital).

Private practitioners usually prefer long term employees as it takes considerable staff time and cost to train a dental assistant, a wasted investment if they do not stay with the practice. If you are not planning to be in the country for a reasonable length of time, please be honest with your prospective employer to avoid conflict. Maternity leave positions are often advertised and provide an excellent short term employment opportunity. These maternity leave positions are usually for 3- 12 months to cover for a permanent staff member who has taken parental time off and intends to return to work. Dental employment agencies are able to assist with temporary positions and they will ensure you are paid correctly.

Public health clinics sometimes require maternity leave positions, however a qualification will be required to work in the public health sector and immunization is mandatory.

The Dental Assistants Professional Association is the membership body and national voice of the dental assistant. We conduct
• professional development courses,
• nationally recognized training qualifications,
• an annual dental assistant conference,
• employment advice and assistance,
• networking events.
You are welcome to contact us for advice on your workplace or employment offer. Many overseas dental assistants join our membership ranks to ensure they meet the continuing professional criteria to maintain their registration upon returning to their home town. We can provide you with a letter of good character for your return home, once you notify us of your employment details and these are confirmed.

The average wage will vary depending on the location of your workplace. Most private dental practices employ under the Modern Award for Health Professionals and Support Services (MA000027). Dental assisting is classed as a support service and a copy of this award can be downloaded from
page 14 will give you the minimum wage levels – a qualified dental assistant with a Certificate III in Dental Assisting would be a level 4 employee.
Pay rates will generally be slightly above the award rate, but will vary between States and Territories. City private practices would pay an average of $25 per hour, country practices would be less. Sydney will pay higher average rates than Perth. Many private dental practices will pay above award rates.

You are welcome to register with the DAPA to receive email alerts and we will advise you of upcoming events. You may need to keep a record of your CPD points to maintain your own registration when returning home.
The DAPA also holds an annual dental assisting conference in October usually in Sydney.
Any other questions? Please email
Safe travelling and we would love to hear from you when you arrive!

The Dental Assistants Professional Association is an approved NSW Smart and Skilled* provider, and more information on this can be found at the smart and skilled website
*'This training is subsidised by the NSW Government.'